Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can slash the chances of miscarriage by up to 61 per cent, research suggests.
Women who ate a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, seafood, dairy products, eggs and grain had a lower miscarriage risk than those who ate the least.
And those with a diet high in processed foods – such as many breakfast cereals, junk foods and anything altered from its natural state – had double the risk.
Experts believe anti-inflammatory foods and those rich in antioxidants – typically found in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains – can help maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Meanwhile, those known to cause inflammation – such as red meats, processed foods and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, raise the risk of miscarrying.
Women who ate a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, seafood, dairy products, eggs and grain had a lower miscarriage risk than those who ate the least (stock image)
Researchers at the University of Birmingham, funded by Tommy’s, analysed 20 studies involving more than 60,000 women, which explored eating habits in the months before and shortly after conceiving.
The review found that, when compared to low consumption, high intake of fruit was associated with a 61 per cent reduction in miscarriage risk.
Those who ate the most vegetables had a 41 per cent reduction in miscarriage risk, compared to those who consumed the lowest amounts. For dairy products it is a 37 per cent reduction, 33 per cent for grains and 19 per cent for seafood and eggs.
Researchers also looked at whether pre-defined dietary types, such as the Mediterranean Diet or Fertility Diet could also be linked to miscarriage risk. They could not find evidence that following any of these diets lowered or raised risk.
However, a whole diet containing healthy foods overall, or foods rich in antioxidant sources, and low in pro-inflammatory foods or unhealthy food groups may be associated with a reduction in miscarriage risk for women.
HOW COMMON ARE MISCARRIAGES?
A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 23 weeks.
Vaginal bleeding followed by cramping and pain in the lower abdomen are the most common symptoms.
Many miscarriages go unreported because they are often managed at home. But it is thought one in eight pregnancies end with losing the baby.
Lots more occur before a person is even aware they are pregnant.
Losing three or more pregnancies in a row is uncommon and affects around one per cent of women.
Doctors believe most occur due to abnormal chromosomes in the baby.
In most cases, miscarriage is a one-off event and people go on to have a successful pregnancy in the future.
The majority of miscarriages cannot be prevented. But avoiding smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs when pregnant lowers the risk.
Being a healthy weight before getting pregnant and eating a healthy diet can also help.
Those suffering a miscarriage are usually referred to hospital for an ultrasound scan.
If one has occurred, it will often pass out naturally in one or two weeks. Sometimes medication is used to assist passing the tissue or minor surgery can be performed.
A diet high in processed food was shown to be associated with doubling of miscarriage risk, according to the findings in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
Lead author Dr Yealin Chung said: ‘There’s a growing body of evidence to show that lifestyle changes – including changes to diet, stopping smoking and not drinking alcohol – before conceiving and in your pregnancy’s early stages – may have an impact.
‘We strongly encourage couples to consider the importance of making positive lifestyle choices when planning for a family, and to continue with these healthy choices throughout their pregnancy and beyond.
‘By knowing that positive lifestyle choices can make a significant difference in reducing the risk of miscarriage, couples can feel empowered to take charge of their health and the health of their baby.’
Miscarriage is common, with estimates suggesting 1 in 6 pregnancies end in miscarriage. There are many known causes from problems with the baby’s chromosomes to infections in the womb.
Yet with nearly half of early pregnancy losses remaining unexplained, parents often seek advice on how to reduce the risk of future miscarriages.
Juliette Ward, a midwife who works for Tommy’s said the findings suggest miscarriages could be prevented through dietary guidelines but more research is needed.
She said: ‘Advice on diet is one of the most-discussed subjects for us when talking with pregnant women and birthing people.
‘We know that baby loss is very rarely the result of someone’s lifestyle choices, but many people want to know how to be as healthy as possible in pregnancy.
‘Following a healthy diet, taking supplements like Vitamin D and folic acid, exercise and trying to lower stress are all things people can try to do, but there’s been a lack of clear evidence on the links between diet choices and miscarriage.
‘Given this lack of evidence, there aren’t any evidence-based guidelines outlining dietary advice for women and birthing people or their partners – something the findings of this review suggest could make a real impact in helping people reduce their risk.’